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Adventures in Faith

FROM THE TABLE TO THE PEW!

My Thoughts. . .
Monday, December 16, 2019

We live with traditions every day. We even create a few ourselves. The Pharisees had some which caused Jesus to warn, “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9).

Paul corrects the church in Corinth because they failed to recognize the differences between partaking at the Lord’s table and doing so at the table of demons (1 Corinthians 10:15-21). He is writing to members who have the gift of prophesy and are inspired by the Holy Spirit but were following the wrong influence. Is it possible for us to walk in their footsteps today? When we accept tradition as the way something must be done because we claim that it is God’s way, we restore the path they took!

When Jesus instituted the Lord’s supper, it was referred to as “breaking of bread” (Acts 2:42; 20:7). They sat and supped at the table where they were in the process of eating the Passover meal. In that supper, instructions were given by Jesus, questions were asked, and dialogue took place among all who participated. Today, we sit in pews, not around a table. We view the back of someone’s head. Silent prayer, scripture reading, or internal reflection is the unwritten code of respect. In some assemblies a few appointed men, will stand behind what is labeled “the Lord’s Table.” The specific table Jesus and the apostles occupied was never referred to by that expression. Jesus introduced the bread, prayed over it, distributed it to the next man and it was passed around to the rest by his seated neighbor. Our tradition for distributing the communion is totally different from the descriptions of its institution or practice in the first century. How did we move from their way to what we do today?

Most Catholic, Protestant, and Churches of Christ partake upon the first day of the week, but seldom mimic the activities of that first introduced meal. The Catholic tradition had a male priest placing a bread-like wafer upon the participant’s tongue while they stood at the altar before him. The table was to one side or behind the priest. No one was seated at that table. No one partook at that table. It held the bread and wine. Their “table” was the altar. Ours is the pew. Protestantism made some changes, primarily in labeling. The priest became the pastor or minister. Some Protestant churches introduced several men to serve a seated audience. One of that number would preside or lead in offering comments and prayer before the elements were served. Protestantism allowed the participants to drink the fruit of the vine which Catholicism restricted to only the priest. Campbell and other restorationists adopted the Protestant tradition rather than the Catholic procedure. Like the Protestants, we refer to the table holding the bread and fruit of the vine as “the Lord’s Table.” We speak of eating “around that table.” That expression is figurative rather than actual. Protestantism borrowed the church building/sanctuary scenario from Catholicism, which influenced some of the traditions that grew out of that culture and time frame. Sanctuaries have pews rather than tables. The purpose of “the Lord’s Table” evolved into a piece of furniture that held the emblems and we symbolically gathered around that small table by sitting in our pews. Culture has its evolution. Is our way of doing the Lord’s supper sinful? That is not the point. We must understand that the way we do it is not required by scripture. It is our tradition and nothing more. Traditions are not God’s word. Traditions may be changed. They are man-made. To engrave a table with Jesus’ words, “This do in remembrance of me,” does not make that piece of furniture holy, nor its use mandatory. First century saints brought their own bread and fruit of the vine and shared. No special seating arrangement nor specific furniture was mentioned to enhance that participation.

In the first century the Jerusalem church met from house to house. 8,000 plus members were distributed among multiple homes. The bread and fruit of the vine were shared. Nothing is said about an individual presiding in Jesus’ place. Nothing is said about men “serving on the table” nor the distributing of the bread or wine being a “male role only” activity. No rules are outlined describing how each participant must express reverence or respect. Our culture and traditions may have implemented those details, but not scripture. All such rules are based upon human concepts originating from a period’s culture and its changeable human standards. Is a suit wrong if worn on Sunday? No. But neither does God require one to wear a suit and tie in order for that individual to show Yahweh respect. Catholicism and Protestantism may cite the reader to the priestly dress of Aaron and family, but we are not Hebrews nor bound by Levitical standards. To bind that concept builds upon an Old Testament foundation rather than the New covenant’s precepts.

Catholics limited the priesthood to males and those males presided over spiritual functions to validate them. Protestantism borrowed the Catholic idea and redefined it into their clergy/laity system. Churches of Christ borrowed the concept but redefined it as “male role only” activities. First century house assemblies were not validated with such regulations. Traditions created today’s concepts and wrapped them in a “thus saith the Lord” for some. Most of our traditions are built from the foundation of worshiping in a church building. A valid serving of the Lord’s supper depends upon those precepts that originated several hundred years after the first century. No matter how well a modern-day service may proceed under those man-made rules, we must never forget their origin nor claimed them as our authority.

Is there anything wrong with this nineteenth to twenty-first century practice? Yes and No. No, the practice is not wrong within itself. However, if and when a congregation believes that the way they serve the communion is THE way they and all other assemblies of Christ must do it in order to please God, then yes, they have become the meal at Satan’s table.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8-9 KJV).

SOUND SINNERS!

My Thoughts . . .

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Member # 1: The preacher is sound and the congregation he works with has a sound eldership and the church is sound.  The preacher believes and teaches from the pulpit that women who work outside the home are sinning unless she is a nurse, a schoolteacher, or the church secretary.

Member # 2: If he preaches that, do the elders and church back him up in what he says from the pulpit?

Member # 1: What do you mean?

Member # 2: What I mean is, are there women in the pews who work outside the home, but not as nurses, schoolteachers, or church secretaries?

Member # 1: Yes, that’s the reason he preaches against working outside the home.  He is preaching to those women who work but are not nurses, schoolteachers, or church secretaries!

Member # 2: Are the elders counseling with those women who are working outside the home but are not nurses, schoolteachers, or church secretaries?

Member # 1: No, why should they?  The preacher has informed them that it is sinful for them to work outside the home unless they are engaged in those three occupations.

Member # 2: If those same women were guilty of engaging in prostitution, would the elders and church be sound if the preacher just got up and preached on the sin without a follow up action?

Member # 1: The preacher is sound because he has the courage to speak out against that sin from the pulpit.  The elders are sound because they are backing him up.  The congregation is sound because they want that kind of strong preaching.

Member # 2: But, isn’t the preacher, elders, and congregation guilty of “saying” but not “doing” anything about the sin?  If those women are engaged in prostitution, would it not be the duty of the elders, with the backing of the preacher and the congregation, to withdraw from those women if they will not repent?  If they don’t follow up and the sin continues, are they still a “sound” congregation, eldership, and preacher?

Member # 1: You are right and to continue to be sound, they would need to withdraw from all those women who will not repent of that sin.

Member # 2: What about your preacher and elders who believe women working outside the home, who are not nurses, schoolteachers, or church secretaries, are sinning?  If those women working outside the home in other professions do not repent, why are they not being withdrawn from?  Why is the congregation considered “sound” when they will not deal with what they believe is sinful?

Member # 1: They are sound because they are standing up against the sin.  They are working on it.  If they were not working on it, then they wouldn’t be sound.  But, since they are working on it by showing they don’t agree with it, they express their soundness.

Member # 2: Haven’t the preacher, elders, and congregation been condemning those women working outside the home for the past twenty-five years or more?  Besides, where does the Bible say that women may work outside the home if they are nurses, schoolteachers, or church secretaries?

Member # 1: Those three professions are implied since they are in jobs that women usually do.

Member # 2: If men began filling those work roles, wouldn’t that make it sinful for the women to continue in those activities?  Besides, what scripture implies that women may work outside the home if men are not engaged in such?  If those professions are “women roles,” wouldn’t it be sinful for a man to engage in a “woman’s role”?  If so, shouldn’t the preacher and elders deal with that sin those men are engaged in?

Yes, this actually happened.  Yet, there was no follow up.  Those women continued to work at their “unscriptural” jobs and the collection plate gladly continued receiving their contributions.  One side note.  On the Monday after that sermon was preached, the secretary resigned.  That’s when the preacher informed her that being a church secretary wasn’t a sin.

GOD IS NOT FALLIBLE!

My Thoughts . . .

Monday, December 9, 2019

The book of Judges is a record of how fallible men and women walked with our infallible God.  However, fallibility can be a rug easily removed!  Gideon faced an enemy that was described as being “so many of them that they were like a swarm of locusts . . . they were as many as the grains of sand on the beach” (Judges 7:12).  Gideon was successful in raising an army of 32,000.  That’s large, but not as many “grains” or “locust” as the Midianites had.  God’s word to Gideon, may not have been appreciated at face value!  God said, “You have too many men” (v.2).  When the odds are 5 to your 1, how can that be too many?  Did Gideon question whether or not he had heard correctly?  The enemy had “grains” on “a beach” compared with Gideon’s small sandbox!

Most men going into battle are fearful.  Some will make promises to God that they may not keep once the battle is over.  Right away God gave His permission for 22,000 soldiers to take a furlough.  I’m sure when those young men arrived at home, no one insisted that they return to the conflict.  If Yahweh wanted to send them home, then home is where they needed to be!  Did Gideon wonder how the battle would end with only 10,000 soldiers?  The difference is now 13-14 men to their 1!  Gideon’s small sandbox had been decreased to a smaller sand pile!   But God wasn’t finished.  There remained a water drinking contest.  9,700 more men would have some happy parents and relatives welcoming them home!  Do you wonder if Gideon looked at his former 32,000 army, now reduced to a measly 300, and saying to himself, “We’re going to whip the Midianites like they’ve never been whipped before”?  Of course, the ratio is now 450 to their 1.  Most commanders today would have sat down and cried over that depletion and then surrendered.

Why did Yahweh pull that rug of 31,700 soldiers out from under Gideon to leave him with only 300 warriors?  How can a few grains defeat an entire beach where the grains are too numerous to count?  Have you ever wondered what thoughts occupied the mind of each of those 300?  Did they congratulate one another on being in an army that would soon be annihilated?  Did they sit down and immediately write that last letter to their loved ones at home?  The opposing army would not have to draw a sword to defeat them, they could just trample them to death with their unconquerable numbers!  Why did God decrease them from an army of 32,000 to a handful of 300?  Maybe they had a chance with 32,000, but what could they do with 300?  Yahweh was going to prove something to them.  He Gideon,

You have too many men for Me to give you a victory over the Midianites.   I do not want the Israelites to brag, thinking that they saved themselves.” (V.2).

In such circumstances, fallibility does not think that way.  Fallibility wants Yahweh to quadruple that 32,000, not decrease it.  If 32,000 men have fears, what will 300 entertain?  The 300 are badly outnumbered.  Will they look upon the coming battle as a victory, or a suicide mission?  Do you think there was a single soldier in that small number who thought 300 could defeat 135,000 (Judges 8:10)? They may have had a chance with 32,000, but God whittled that number down to 300!  Why?  “I do not want the Israelites to brag, thinking that they saved themselves.”  If 450 fellows met you one day and said they were going to put you in the hospital, would you have any hopes of whipping them without anyone landing a fist on you?  That’s the situation those 300 found themselves in.

Did you know we are in a battle with Satan (1 Peter 5:8)?  Do you think you can save yourself with your righteousness (Titus 3:5)?  Are you like the Israelites, you think you can save yourself?  There are some who believe their unshed blood is equal to the blood shed by Jesus (Matthew 26:28; Luke 22:20).  They believe their imperfections are a righteous substitute for Jesus’ perfection (Hebrews 9:28).   Their trust is in what they do, not what was done for them by Yahweh through Jesus (Romans 5:1, 6, 8-9).

God whittled Israel’s numbers down to show them who their Savior was.  Jesus did the same when he went to the cross.  Yet, there are some believers who continue to think that they can put God in debt to them because they are worthy of heaven by saving themselves!

 

THE PHILIPPIANS WORK OUT!

My Thoughts . . .
Thursday, December 5, 2019

Paul wrote to the Philippian assembly stating,

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).

For some, that passage has been a thorn rather than a crown. Soon one discovers that perfection is a goal that is beyond their reach. It is a heartache without healing. It is an impossible job to complete. That interpretation has created a “fear and trembling,” foreign to Paul’s meaning. The apostle did not command the impossible. He was not inferring that the harder you work, the closer you are to eternal salvation. He was not establishing a standard to create miniature Saviors.

That passage is usually connected to others making it appear that eternal salvation is reserved for those who can outperform others (Matthew 5:48; 2 Timothy 3:17). That interpretation creates a false standard of righteousness (Titus 3:5 a). What human being will be chosen as the one that all others will be measured by? Who was that special person in the Philippian membership? Was it based upon perfect attendance, number of people converted, amount of money contributed, prayers offered, or passages quoted? If there is a model to be copied, wouldn’t it be Jesus? Who has attained his perfection or sacrifice? Only the false Messiahs believe they have (Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22).

The Philippian congregation wasn’t corrected as much as the Corinthian church was. Yet, there were imperfections (3:17-19; 4:2-3). Perfection eludes all saints and assemblies. We mistakenly believe a congregation is faithful if it immerses “for the remission of sins,” meets each Sunday to partake of communion, places money in the collection plate, has “sound” elders and deacons, the attendance numbers are good, the preacher quotes all the familiar passages, and error is faithfully condemned. That may be man’s ideal perfection, but fails to meet God’s standard. For the perceptive, the gap between the two is enormous. That distance strikes “fear and trembling” in hearts that understand the difference. Those who see that deviation know that their efforts to conquer it will only be rewarded with failure. Their “work” will never be enough. This multiplies their “fear and trembling.”  Paul’s command is a work resulting in impossibility as its reward. The blind swallow it and the sighted are rewarded with discouragement.

Isn’t this what Paul is saying? Is he setting goals that neither the Philippians nor future believers can attain? Why would Paul, with those few words, snatch the hope of eternal life from those who are seeking it? Perhaps those words have been taken out of context! Is Paul telling them that salvation is within their grasp IF the culmination of their work is sinless perfection? Or, is he telling them to continue to be obedient in his absence as they were when he was present? There is a difference. They were not sinless when he was with them, nor are they sinless in his absence. He isn’t demanding perfection. God does demand faith. Faith begins when one feeds upon milk (1 Peter 2:2). Yet, as that faith develops, one grows (Hebrews 5:12-14). Faith produces maturity, not sinlessness. Our sinlessness comes through the cleansing blood of Jesus (Romans 5:9; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Hebrews 9:12, 14; 13:12; Revelation 1:5).

If we substitute some of the different words that some believe Philippians 2:12 is teaching, it may help in clearing up some or all of the misunderstandings.

1. Work out your own perfection.
2. Work out your own sinlessness.
3. Work out your own Messiahship.

Some equate “obedience” as their Savior rather than Jesus. No one seems to know the percentage needed to guarantee their salvation. If it is less than 100%, it will not save. So, hope springs up within the heart, believing God’s mercy will fill that gap. But, how much filling with God’s grace pour out? If 25% is needed, but the gap is 1% beyond that amount, will God’s mercy be sufficient? What sinning saint knows how much gap God’s grace will grant? If our obedience must reach a specific level to save, who knows what that level is? If it is not known, isn’t that individual’s hope built upon that obscurity? Is the unknown the faith our hope is founded upon? Like one’s obedience, such faith is not up to par.

Was Paul telling the Philippians to live a life of fear and trembling because they would never be capable of reaching their goal of salvation? Who accomplished and maintained 100% perfection in Philippi? Who does it today? Whose “work” today meets that 100% mark, much less maintains it?

Doesn’t the context show us that Philippi’s actions, when Paul was in their midst, should continue even in his absence? If so, were they sinlessly perfect in their works while he was there, or were they like you and me, faithful but not without sin (1 John 1:8, 10)?

By the way, how much sin does the blood of Jesus remove before it loses its cleansing power? Keep in mind that Jesus paid it all!

WHEN SIN WAKES YOU UP!

My Thoughts . . .

Monday, December 2, 2019

Some have a hard time going to sleep at night because of their sins.  Some have no problem pillowing their head in spite of their sins.  Some are disgusted due to their failure to stop sinning.  Some believe they are perfect and incapable of sinning.  Some give up and return to unbelief because their sin keeps them from being perfect.  Some become impatient with God because they believe He fails in keeping them perfect, so it’s His fault, not theirs.  Some believe Satan is stronger than God since they find it impossible to never sin.  Some believe God gave them an instruction book and then left them to figure it out for themselves.  Some believe God sent His Son to die for our past sins, but we are responsible for saving ourselves from our present ones.  Some realize they will never be perfect and live with fear that they will die before they can ask God to forgive them.  So, how does sin wake you up, and if it does, what good comes from it?

Everyone, whether saint or sinner commits sin.  Who can ignore that fact?  We may excuse ourselves.  We may exempt ours by enlarging yours.  Regardless of what we do, we are all sinners.  It’s in our DNA, so to speak.  Paul told the Roman believers, “For all have sinned” (Romans 3:23).  That statement applies to both the believer and the unbeliever.  If that is false, why did Paul have to withstand Peter to his face (Galatians 2:11-14 NASV, NIV)?  He was guilty of hypocrisy.  Paul misjudged Mark, and his partnership with Barnabas ended in a sharp disagreement (Acts 15:26-40).  Later, Paul admitted his mistake (2 Timothy 4:11).

When John wrote his first epistle, he stated,

If we say that we have NO sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us . . . . If we say that we have NOT sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8, 10).

Everyone sins.  Those who are lost, are sinners.  Those who are saved, are sinners.  What is the redeeming factor between the two types or kinds of sinners?  One is lost IN sin and the other is saved FROM sin.  I am a sinner who has no sin.  How is that possible?  It is due to the difference by being IN Christ rather than separated from him.  When one is In Christ, he is continually cleansed by the blood of Jesus.  This continuous cleansing action is needed for God to dwell in the believer (1 Corinthians 3:16).  God is holy and cannot dwell in the unholy.  The Christian is kept holy through the righteous, cleansing power of Jesus’ blood.  I cannot say that I have NO sin, or that I have NOT sinned, because I do.  Yet, I am made spotless by the cleansing blood of Jesus.

The Hebrew writer was addressing believing Jews who recognized their short comings or sins.  But they recognized what the blood of Jesus does for them.  Therefore, he writes,

Now the just shall live by faith . . . But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:38-39).

Believers are people whose sins woke them up to their need for Jesus.  Those on Pentecost ask, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).  We die to our sins and are buried with Jesus and raised with him into that new life (Romans 6:3-7).  Paul stated, “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Sin can wake us up to our need for Jesus and his saving power!  What is your sin doing for you?

AN UPLIFTING DOWNSIDE!

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Pick up any “medicine,” whether across the counter or prescribed, and it has a warning label.  In fact, some warnings inform you that side effects may produce the very conditions it is supposed to protect you from!  If so, you are encouraged to “stop” ingesting it and immediately call your doctor!  Very discomforting information.  Yet, that same warning should be attached to other things besides medication.

There are things which we have innocently accepted that were handed down to us from centuries ago.  Like medicine, it offered a solution to what was considered a problem.  It was an “expedient” to make something work better or more smoothly.  It did, or our ancestors would not have adopted it.  Yet, we live in an imperfect world that attaches a price tag to everything.  Yes, everything.

For example, Jesus invites, “Come to me all you who labor or are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).  Yet, that “rest” has a price tag attached!  Jesus also stated, “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake” (Matthew 10:22).  He warned, “Whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (Mark 8:35).  That “rest” could cost you your life!  That’s the label warning!

The first century church grew rapidly.  About 3,000 on the first day (Acts 2:41).  Another 5,000 men not long after (Acts 4:4).  So, you have a single saved group that met in a Temple courtyard and from house to house (Acts 2:46).  The Jewish Court stopped the meetings in the courtyard with several arrests and beatings until finally Stephen was killed and persecution scattered the church (Acts 3:1-3, 17-18, 21; 5:17-18, 26-28, 33, 40; 7:54-59; 8:1).

The Temple meetings may have produced larger crowds bringing in a multitude of converts like the 3,000 and 5,000.  Yet, the “label” warnings began almost immediately (Acts 4:17; 5:28).  These warnings culminated in Stephen being murdered and Saul building a reputation (Acts 7:59-60; 8:3).  Yet, this did not stop the house to house assemblies.

House to house meetings contained fewer numbers.  An opportunity for 8,000 plus to be together was eliminated.  Yet, meetings continued (Acts 12:12, 17).  Elders continued to shepherd the flock.  Conversions continued. The gospel began to spread beyond Jerusalem.  House assemblies were found in those locations where the gospel was preached (Acts 16:34; 20:20; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 1:2).  House assemblies were useful and expedient.  Without street signs or a church building, Paul and group found the assembly in Troas (Acts 20:6-7).  Yet, some today would see the downside of that arrangement.  They cannot visualize eight thousand partaking of communion without it being in only ONE room.  Their understanding cannot perceive how an eldership can shepherd people without eyeballing the sheep in that one room.  One group believes communion is limited to all drinking from one cup.  Another believes communion must be in one room to be scriptural.

In the third or fourth century church buildings were first mentioned.  This was an expedient that took attendance out of private homes and put them in a centrally located place.  It was easier for travelers to locate.  More people could be together to partake.  Singing probably improved.  But even this expediency had its negatives.  It developed into the location where believers had to gather in order to be in the presence of God.  It became God’s house or temple rather than that label continuing to refer to the saints (Hebrews 3:6).  The assemblies became more formal.  A clergy was developed to lead the laity in authorized worship.  At first the congregants stood, but seating was introduced.  A good expedient, but with its shortcomings.  Attention was focused on what the clergy did.  The attendees did not face one another nor was there communication of encouragement between people since the back of someone’s head faced them!  Holiness was transferred from God’s original building stones (1 Corinthians 3:9; 1 Peter 2:5) to the brick and mortar that became the substituted holy place.  Time erased the first century’s meeting agenda so any assembly not in the building at the appropriate times must be sinful.  House to house meetings for “worship” became pass tense.  Worship took on a different meaning and rules and regulations were created to solidify its holy importance.  Proper attitudes in that special place were expected.  Special furniture was created, introduced, and accepted as the way things should be.

Some expedients or traditions may be good and useful.  However, when expedients and traditions become “the way it must be done,” then whatever benefits they once brought, vanishes.  The way we do things in the twenty-first century may not be sinful, but we must continually recognize their origin.  They are not commanded by God.  Such things are our creation to make our way of doing things run smoother.  Just because an expedient or tradition has that characteristic doesn’t make it God’s standard.  Like medicine, some actions still have labels which warn us that a good thing may end up being bad for us!  Even good things have their price tag!

IF IT IS NEW, IS IT BAD?

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, November 25, 2019

There are songs with lyrics that grab the soul and refuse to release it.  There is a group that came to Jackson a year or so ago and appeared at the Civic Center.  We went early to find a good seat, but our “early” was “late.”  The line stretched from the front doors to about two blocks.  It wasn’t single file, but two or three people wide.  There wasn’t a bad seat in the house!  We enjoyed the group from Georgia who have named themselves since 1999 as “Casting Crowns.”  One of the most popular singles by the group, produced in 2011, was “Who Am I?”

Who Am I?

That the Lord of all the earth,

Would care to know my name,

Would care to feel my hurt.

Who Am I?

That the bright and morning star,

Would choose to light the way,

For my ever wandering heart?

Not because of who I am.

But because of what you’ve done.

Not because of what I’ve done.

But because of who you are!

Chorus

I am a flower quickly fading,

Here today and gone tomorrow,

A wave tossed in the ocean,

A vapor in the wind.

Still you hear me when I’m calling,

Lord, you catch me when I’m falling,

And you told me Who I Am.

I am yours.  I am yours.

Who Am I?

That the eyes that see my sin,

Would look on me with love,

And watch me rise again.

Who Am I?

That the voice that calms the sea,

Would call out through the rain,

And calm the storm in me.

Not because of Who I Am.

But because of what you’ve done,

Not because of what I’ve done.

But because of who you are.

Chorus

I am a flower quickly fading,

Here today and gone tomorrow.

A wave tossed in the ocean,

A vapor in the wind.

Still you hear me when I’m calling.

Lord you catch me when I’m falling.

And you told me Who I Am.

I Am Yours.

Not because of who I am.

But because of what you’ve done.

Not because of what I’ve done.

But because of who you are.

Whom shall I fear?

Whom shall I fear?

Cuz I am yours.

Cuz I am yours.

There may be some believers who do not realize it, but there are 150 psalms (songs) in the Old Testament that spoke to the hearts of Hebrew saints.  In fact, a Jew by the name of Saul or Paul of Tarsus wrote to the saved in Ephesus and stated,

“Speaking to one another in PSALMS and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19).  He also told the Colossian assembly, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in PSALMS and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16).

The psalms have found their verses in a number of our songs and hymns today.  There are some phrases in the New Testament that are said to be “hymns” and “spiritual songs” of the first century.  However, inspired passages fail to specifically identify them as such.  Churches of Christ have always had song books which contain numerous songs by those who were not affiliated with us, such as Bill and Gloria Gaither, Martin Luther, John and Charles Wesley, John Newton, Fannie Crosby, and many others.  All of the songs we sing by those writers were “new” at one time.  They were sung by our members for the first time at some period during their day.

If songs by Luther, Wesley, Newton, Crosby, or Gaither may be learned and sung by believers today, then those written by Mark Hall of the group Casting Crowns may also be learned and sung today.  Something new is not always bad!

UNSAFE AND SAFE SINS!?

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Paul established the Corinthian congregation and spent eighteen months with them.  Then he traveled to Ephesus.  About a year later he wrote his first letter to them.  In that short period, they have digressed into all the error he addresses.  Apparently their denominating into four parties is the foundation upon which most of their errors find their origin  (Chapters 1 – 4).  After dealing with these four divisions, he begins with one member who is living with his father’s wife.  He refers to this individual as a “fornicator” (v.9).  He commands them to withdraw from this “wicked person” (v.13).  The Corinthian pagan population has not descended into the immorality practiced by this one individual (v.1).

In chapter 6 Paul begins enumerating the other sins the assembly is engaged in.  What is unique about this letter and the congregation’s behavior is that this one individual is the only one they are commanded to withdraw from!  You have an error practicing assembly withdrawing from one member who is in error.  Wouldn’t human nature motivate the one to remind the majority that four of their fingers are pointing at them?  Only one is pointed at him!  Doesn’t that sound hypocritical?

If the Corinthian congregation existed today, wouldn’t the pointing fingers belong to those who label themselves as “sound”?  Words such as “apostate, unsound, unscriptural, or leaving the old paths” would be the message broadcasted by those condemning fingers.  Condemnation would be heaped upon their eldership, deacons, and ministers.  Appeals would be made to the members to flee and fill their roll books because they are safe havens of truth.  Wouldn’t Paul’s admonitions be extolled as a pattern badly needed to prove the soundness of today’s congregations?

If chapter 5 is a pattern for us today, few would experience a member living with his father’s wife.  Yet, how many disciples in each congregation might be guilty of the following actions described by Paul?  What about folks who are being greedy or making money, influence, fame, or power as their idol?  What about those who slander or are abusive?  What about a person who is a drunkard or involved in drugs?  Is there any member who cheats or swindles others?  These activities are listed with fornication (v. 11).  Are we guilty of ignoring such, failing to be grieved over such, fellowshipping such, boasting about such, or eating the Lord’s supper with such?  If so, are we not more like Corinth than we think?

Didn’t Corinth believe in immersion (12:13, 27)?  Didn’t they partake of the Lord’s supper (11:20)?  Weren’t they addressed by an inspired apostle as “the church of God,” “brethren,” “members of ,” and “the body of Christ”? (1:2, 10; 6:15; 12:27)?  Weren’t they included within the “churches of the saints” (14:33)?  Weren’t they the “temple of God” as well as the “temple of the Holy Spirit” (3:16; 6:19)?  Wasn’t the Holy Spirit dwelling within them (3:16)?  Didn’t they have inspired prophets, language speakers, and interpreters (12:27-28)?  Didn’t they give each Sunday (16:1-3).  Didn’t they practice scriptural withdrawing (2 Corinthians 2:7-8)?  Weren’t they in fellowship with other congregations (16:19)?  Weren’t they “bought with a price” (6:20)?  If a congregation had God referring to them as such in all of those actions, wouldn’t we refer to it as a sound church!  Since they were all of that, did Paul refer to them as an apostate congregation?  Is there a single verse where Paul states that they are no long the true body or church of Christ?  Did Paul suggest that the elders, or preachers be withdrawn from?  Did he warn members moving into Corinth to NOT place membership with them until they repented and pray for forgiveness?

If practicing “church discipline” is a factor in being a restored first century church, would your choices cause you to accomplish that goal or fail at it?  If today’s congregations needed to practice scriptural withdrawal, and it was between a man who was living with his father’s wife or a preacher or elder who rejected Paul apostolic authority, which one would you withdraw from?  If it was between a man who was guilty of slander or one who espoused that the dead were not resurrected, which one would you chose to put out?  If it was between a member who was covetous or one who convinced others to be “of Cephas,” who would you withdraw from?

Was Paul in error himself by not withdrawing from the entire Corinthian congregation until each repented and asked for forgiveness for their specific sins?  Perhaps chapter five is a binding pattern where some sins are to be dealt with immediately by other sinning members.  Isn’t Paul’s pattern allowing those other sinners to put off their repentance for months before it is necessary to threaten them with the same disciplining?  They continued to be the church of God in their sins.  They continued to be temple of the Holy Spirit in their sins.  They retained their spiritual gifts.  They continued to be denominated as the assemble of Paul, the assembly of Cephas, the assemble of Apollos, and the assembly of Christ while they disciplined that one individual.  They are involved in doctrinal error, have not yet repented, yet God is still dwelling in them.

What are your thoughts?

OBSERVING THE PASSOVER!

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, November 18, 2019

Have you ever read a familiar passage in the Bible and passed over a single word because you didn’t recognize its importance?  Perhaps I too am guilty of doing that.  What was that word?  It was a word which we know, but we read it in our context rather than in Paul’s!  Paul was writing to the church of God in Corinth to correct multiple errors.  When it came to the Lord’s supper, they were partaking, but not waiting on one another.  Their four-way division may have contributed to that problem.  They also refused to share with one another.  As a results, Paul writes,

For as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk.” (1 Corinthians 11:21 NIV).

Few miss that word “drunk.”  Some deny the fruit of the vine was alcoholic.  We know it wasn’t Welch’s.  The 13 years of Prohibition probably influenced the interpretation of “drunk” more than first century culture did.  Due to that modern influence, a word definition had to be substituted so “drunk” could not mean intoxication.  Most pay little attention to the word “hungry.”  Why?  That necessitated a substitution also.  One commentator suggested the word “hungry” meant they were eating a “common meal” rather than the Lord’s supper.  Of course, that expression “common meal” has to be added to scripture to establish that view.

The modern communion service is planned to run smoothly, proficiently, and quickly.  When the Lord’s supper is served, the bread could not possibly satisfy anyone’s hunger.  We don’t design it to fill our stomachs.  If Paul wrote to us, he might accuse today’s church of sending people home “hungry,” not because of division, nor refusing to wait or share with others, but because we don’t partake of enough to squelch anyone’s hunger pains.  We use the word “represent” to identify the bread and the fruit of the vine.  No inspired writer used that expression.  Jesus said, “Take eat; this is my body” (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19).  He also stated, “This cup is the New Testament in my blood,” (Luke 22:20; Mark 14:24-25; Matthew 26:28).  Is our addition “the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11)?

The Greek word that “hungry” is translated from is πειναω (peinao).  It means “to famish, figurative to crave, or be an hungered.”  It is found twenty-three times in the New Testament.  After Jesus was tempted in the wilderness Matthew tells us he “afterwards hungered” (Matthew 4:2).  The angels didn’t bring Jesus the amount of bread to extinguish his hunger which we serve on Sunday morning.  The apostle also informs us that the disciples were “hungry” and ate grain on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1).  Paul states that if your “enemy hunger, feed him” (Romans12:20).  The word “hunger” in these passages wasn’t satisfied with a small wafer or thimble size glass of wine.

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he was upset because they would not share the fruit of the vine nor the unleavened bread with others.  This refusal caused some to go home hungry.  It caused those who drank without sharing to be inebriated.  Too much fruit of the vine and too little bread.  Drunk on one, hungry without the other.  Yet, were they dining on wine and bread alone?  The Lord’s supper is the last part of the Passover meal.  It continued as that meal even though Jesus used a part of it to be his body and blood.  Notice the following statements.

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’” (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22).

Mark and Luke tell us, “While they were eating” Jesus circulated the bread without informing them they were no long eating the Passover.  What were they in the process of eating?  Wasn’t it the Passover meal which included lamb, egg, vegetables, fruit, unleavened bread, and wine?  Luke reveals the last two cups consumed during that process (Luke 22:17-20).  Luke also shows that the third and fourth cup of that meal were offered by Jesus as part of his supper memorial.  Neither the Passover nor Jesus added part were performed in silence.  There was instruction concerning what the meal was about.  There were questions, answers given, disagreements, and a dispute during that period of “while they were eating.”  We eliminate from those accounts things that we don’t wish to do and substitute what we are comfortable with.  We insert our culture and weed out theirs!  Our views of “respect, attire, reverence, and worship” are patterned more from the ideology of later centuries than from what Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John described.

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11:23-28 mentions only the cup and the bread.  However, in Matthew 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22 only the fruit of the vine and bread are mentioned.  John completely leaves out the Lord’s supper but adds the foot washing and Jesus giving Judas a sop.  This Greek word, ψωμιον (psomion) is found only in John 13.  If the absence of lamb and other table items are not being mentioned in 1 Corinthians 11, means they weren’t consumed according to Paul’s account, the same would be true in Matthew 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22 since they are not mentioned there either.  If they may be added by inference in those three accounts, they may also be added by inference in 1 Corinthians 11.

Paul ends his correction on the subject of the Lord’s supper by writing, “If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment.” (1 Corinthians 11:34).  Some commentaries claim that the Corinthians were serving a common meal rather than the Lord’s supper.  Actually, the expression “common meal” is not in any text.  That addition satisfies those who need it to flesh out their man made teaching, but it remains as an addition to the divine text.  The context points toward Paul telling the Corinthians that if they do not want to wait on or share with one another, let them eat the bread and drink the wine at home.  Why?  Under those conditions it is not the Lord’s supper (1 Corinthians 11:17-21)!  It is just bread and wine.

If the Corinthians had waited on one another and shared, then no one would have left hungry nor would anyone be tipsy.  If they were filling up on unleavened bread which satisfied their hunger, then wouldn’t that be a pattern for us to partake of a larger amount of bread and drink than we presently consume?  There seems to be more to the word “hungry” than we have presumed.

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